Simplified: The childcare crisis facing Sioux Falls will take a community effort, providers say. But there are now two people focused full-time at finding solutions to help keep childcare affordable, accessible and sustainable.
Why it matters
- South Dakota as a whole is on the precipice of a $636 million gap between what is affordable to families and the actual costs of providing adequate care, according to data released earlier this year from the Sioux Falls Childcare Collaborative.
- In simpler terms, it means families are struggling to find care they can afford, especially when parents in the state are now paying $10,000 on average per year for each kid in childcare. That leaves parents in a tough position where staying in the workforce isn't worth the cost of putting kids in childcare.
- The Childcare Collaborative – working with the city, the community foundation and others – gathered the resources needed to hire two people to focus solely on this issue for the next six months.
"We've got to quit talking about the problem," Mayor Paul TenHaken said. "We've got to figure out the solution."
Tell me more about the problem
Like most societal challenges, it's complicated.
- For daycare providers, costs are increasing – including wages, which need to go up to stay competitive with other entry-level jobs like fast food workers, Embe CEO Kerri Tietgen said.
- For parents, costs are also increasing. Childcare costs in S.D. already more than double what's deemed "affordable" by federal definitions, and without help from the community, those costs will continue to go up, the data shows.
- For employers, it means fewer available workers. Parents who can't find or can't afford childcare in some cases end up leaving the workforce entirely.
"I keep using the word, 'crisis,' but that's where we're at, folks," Sioux Falls Thrive President Michelle Erpenbach said.
What happens next in solving this?
The collaborative announced the hires of Rana DeBoer and Nicole Fluth, two Sioux Falls women who will dedicate the next six months to working on possible solutions.
- DeBoer has a background in strategic planning, and Fluth is an occupational therapist who's seen the childcare challenges firsthand.
- Both women said they want their work to be a very public process.
As they're working, the Sioux Falls Childcare Collaborative will continue connecting with others across the state.
- They're also looking to build a collaborative group between business and government to focus on executing solutions in the future, Erpenbach said.
Can I do anything to help?
The childcare collaborative is looking for input from far and wide. You can connect with them via their website here.